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Bock v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 31, 2017

DARLA J. BOCK, Plaintiff,


          Mara J. Dinsmore, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Darla J. Bock (“Bock”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the Act”). See 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d), 1382c(a)(3)(A). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED AND REMANDED.

         I. Background

         Bock filed an application for DIB on April 19, 2013, alleging an onset of disability date of December 10, 2012. [Dkt. 10-2 at 14.] Bock alleges disability due to osteoarthritis and allied disorders, spine disorders, affective disorders, and fibromyalgia.[1] [Dkt. 10-2 at 16.] Bock's application was initially denied on June 19, 2013, and denied again on August 20, 2013, upon reconsideration. [Dkt. 10-2 at 14.] Bock timely filed a written request for a hearing, which was held on May 20, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Sorg-Graves. (“ALJ”). Id. The ALJ issued a decision on July 20, 2015, again denying Bock's applications for SSI. [Dkt. 10-2 at 11.] On October 7, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Bock's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision for purposes of judicial review. [Dkt. 10-2 at 1.] Bock timely filed her Complaint with this Court on December 9, 2016, which Complaint is now before the Court.

         II. Legal Standard

         To be eligible for DIB or SSI, a claimant must have a disability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.[2] Disability is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         To determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner, as represented by the ALJ, employs a five-step sequential analysis: (1) if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled; (2) if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment, one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work activities, she is not disabled; (3) if the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment appearing in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpart P, App. 1, the claimant is disabled; (4) if the claimant is not found to be disabled at step three and she is able to perform her past relevant work, she is not disabled; and (5) if the claimant is not found to be disabled at step three and cannot perform her past relevant work but she can perform certain other available work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Before proceeding from step three to step four, the ALJ must assess the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), identifying the claimant's functional limitations and assessing the claimant's remaining capacity for work-related activities. S.S.R. 96-8p.

         The ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this Court “so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred.” Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. This Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ but may only determine whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Schmidt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 970, 972 (7th Cir. 2000); Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007)). The ALJ “need not evaluate in writing every piece of testimony and evidence submitted.” Carlson v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing Stephens v. Heckler, 766 F.2d 284, 287 (7th Cir. 1985); Zblewski v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 75, 79 (7th Cir. 1984)). However, the “ALJ's decision must be based upon consideration of all the relevant evidence.” Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994). To be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate his analysis of the evidence in his decision; while he “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, ” he must “provide some glimpse into his reasoning” and “build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion.” Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ first determined that Bock has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 10, 2012, the alleged onset date. [Dkt. 10-2 at 16.] At step two, the ALJ determined that Bock “has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and allied disorders; spine disorders; and affective disorders.” Id. However, at step three, the ALJ found that Bock does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals a listed impairment. [Dkt. 10-2 at 17.] In making this determination, the ALJ considered Listings 1.02 (Major Dysfunction of a Joint), 1.04 (Disorders of the Spine), and 12.04 (Depression). Id.

         The ALJ next analyzed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”). She concluded that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform a range of light work except:

[N]o climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs; occasionally balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; no more than frequent over the head reaching; no more than occasional bilateral fingering; able to understand, remember, and carryout (sic) semiskilled tasks; and no more than occasional superficial interaction with the general public and superficial interaction with coworkers and supervisors.

         In finding these limitations, the ALJ considered Bock's “symptoms and the extent to which these symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence.” [Dkt. 10-2 at 19.] The ALJ then acknowledged that the evidence presented could reasonably show that Bock suffers from the symptoms she alleges, but the ALJ found Bock's statements “not entirely credible.” [Dkt. 10-2 at 20.] At step four, the ALJ concluded the Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. [Dkt. 10-2 at 24.] The ALJ thus proceeded to step five, at which time she received testimony from the vocational expert indicating that someone with Plaintiff's education, work experience, age, and RFC would be able to perform unskilled light occupations such as a ticket taker, shipping and receiving weigher, and baker helper. Because these jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. [Dkt. 10-2 at 26.]

         IV. ...

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